Capital center Dennis Maruk, who last season became the 28th player in NHL history to score 50 goals in a season, says he would willingly settle for the same contract terms as Bobby Carpenter. They have not been offered, however, and Maruk calls his contract negotiations a "stalemate."
"Now that they've signed Bobby Carpenter, maybe they'll turn their attention to Mike (Gartner, who scored 48 last season) and me and everybody will be happy," Maruk said during a break in the hockey school he has conducted the last two weeks at Benfield Pines Ice Rink in Millersville, Md.
"I'm not asking for a lot of money, just sufficient for my needs. But they just offered a little raise over last time. I like the Capitals and I want to stay in the area, but they have to pay us what we're worth."
Both Maruk and Gartner are entering the option years of their contracts, believed to have been in the $100,000 range last year. If they remain unsigned, they would become free agents July 1. Although compensation requirements have restricted hockey movement, the Capitals presumably would want their two top scorers to enter the upcoming season with positive thoughts.
In the past, General Manager Max McNab has refused to negotiate while a season is in progress. With the team only two weeks away from training camp, there is minimal time left for discussions to whittle away the big dollar difference in player and management thinking.
McNab has said he is confident there will be no problem with Gartner. After some prodding, he said he was reasonably confident of reaching an agreement with Maruk.
"With Dennis, it is more a matter of the busy schedule of Alan Eagleson (Maruk's agent) than anything else," McNab said.
Eagleson is deeply involved in the Canada Cup series, which begins Tuesday. Gartner, unless he is a last-minute cut, will be playing in that competition, which ends Sept. 13, the day the Capitals report to camp at Hershey. So it would appear the schedules of the principals could only become more cluttered, which leaves one to wonder whether the Capitals are sincere in wanting to sign their two leading scorers to new pacts.
With the team at a financial crossroads and the threat of a player strike hovering a year away, the Capitals may be willing to let Maruk and Gartner play out their options and see what develops, rather than saddling the franchise with a million-dollar commitment.
A trade involving Maruk would not seem unreasonable, with Carpenter adding to the Capitals' long list of centers, but McNab said he had not initiated any trade talk, although others had mentioned Maruk's name.
Maruk expressed pleasure that Carpenter had joined the club and noted, "The kids at the hockey school were asking me about Carpenter, wondering whether he shouldn't go to school, instead. They're 13 or 14 and they're Americans and they've got to think about that, too. This is good for American kids. If Carpenter succeeds, maybe the scouts will look closer at the high schools and American hockey will get better and more Americans will get involved in it."
Maruk also said the prolonged contract situation had not affected his outlook.
"We can surprise everybody this year, but we have to be healthy," Maruk said. "We've had a lot of injuries, particularly major injuries to key players. You're always going to get minor injuries, but we've had a lot of major surgery, particularly knees."
Maruk missed 53 games in the 1979-80 season because of knee surgery. The Capitals have been No. 1 in man-games lost in the NHL during four of the last five seasons, ranking second the other time.
Carpenter is not the only defector from the Providence College ranks. Right wing Dan Miele, a 1980 draftee, has left school and will report to the Capitals' camp . . . Alan Hangsleben has been cut by Team USA . . . Bob Kelly has incorporated himself, a process that has delayed the signing of his new contract . . . Many Capitals will skate at Fort Dupont beginning Monday, with captain Ryan Walter in command and Coach Gary Green watching from the stands, by players association mandate . . . The Naval Academy hockey team will hold tryouts at Benfield today at 2:30 p.m. and Sunday at 1:45 p.m . . . The Suburban Schoolboy Hockey League has grown to eight teams under Vinny Gigliotti's leadership, with Carroll, Friendly and Northwestern joining the fold this season.